Friday, December 9, 2022 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Incumbent Idaho governor defeats Trump-backed lieutenant governor in GOP primary

Idaho’s sitting governor faced his own second in command in a race for the state's top job that’s been dominated by a strained and often combative relationship between the two candidates.

BOISE, Idaho (CN) — Idaho's sitting Republican Governor Brad Little sucessfully fended off a primary challenge from his own lieutenant governor.

With 65% of the vote in, Little had secured 55.76% of it, according to Decision Desk HQ.

"I want to thank all the Republican candidates who ran in this primary," Little told a crowd of supporters Tuesday night. "All of you, your hard work, and the passion for keeping Idaho red. I'm truly humbled by the Idaho Republican Party and how they've entrusted me to continue to be your governor."

Trump-backed Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin came in a distant second with 28.8% of the vote.

Little first secured the governor's seat in 2018. A rancher from southwest Idaho, Little had served in the state Senate for nearly 10 years before being elected to two terms as Idaho’s lieutenant governor under Governor Butch Otter.

Since the start of the race, the incumbent governor situated himself as the frontrunner and touted a series of legislative moves that he says most Idahoans have been eager to get behind, including a $600 million income tax cut he approved earlier this year, and the “Leading Idaho” plan that includes a $300 million increase in educational spending and $200 million increase for transportation infrastructure.

Heading into Tuesday night, the numbers supported Little’s frontrunner status. Polling in the state had given Little double-digit leads over his challengers and earlier this year his team reported his reelection fund at amassed $2.1 million in fundraising.

But among Little’s challengers, his own second in command emerged as his biggest opponent.

Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin, originally born Las Cruces, New Mexico, before moving to Idaho Falls and later being elected to four terms in the Idaho house, was backed by the far-right wing of the GOP and was endorsed by former President Donald Trump last year. McGeachin repeatedly touted Trump’s endorsement, given that the former president won Idaho in 2020 with 64% of the vote.

McGeachin fell into some hot water in February when she made a taped speech to the America First Political Action Conference in Florida, a white nationalist gathering that reportedly saw attendees cheering for Russian President Vladimir Putin. The move garnered criticism from other Republicans in the state, including Idaho GOP Chairman Tom Luna and Governor Little.

McGeachin has repeatedly clashed with the governor during her time in office.

Last may, when Little temporarily left the state for a governor’s conference, McGeachin used her status as acting governor to issue an order barring state officials, cities and universities from adopting mask mandates — all without the governor’s consent.

She repeated a similar stunt again in late 2021, when Little was on a tour of the southern border. Both times Little revoked the orders immediately upon returning to the state.

As Little and McGeachin duked it out for the GOP nomination, the Democratic side had no high-profile candiates — a fact that disappointed some Idahoans.

“It’s a lot about the Republicans today, it seems,” according to a local. “There’s not really anybody in the game right now that’s caught my eye.”

Democrat Stephen Heidt of Marsing, Idaho, is currently leading his party's primary for the state' gubernatorial nomination, but the race, which is technically uncontested, remains officially uncalled, however, while election workers count write-in ballots, most notably for Shelby Rognstad, the mayor of Sandpoint who failed to properly register as a Democratic candidate.

Marsing is an educator who has spent the last 15 years teaching in Idaho prisons, according to his campaign website.

Idaho officials chose to carry out their post-election duties a little differently this year. Officials announced that after the election, they would be conducting the first random election audit, a move they say should help reinforce to voters just how secure and safe the state's elections are.

“We look forward, following this election, to executing Idaho’s first statutorily mandated post-election random audit,” Secretary of State Lawerence Denney said in a statement. “We are confident the results of these audits will reinforce the already stellar work being performed across Idaho in our 44 counties. Our elections processes and procedures provide an example for the nation and are something Idahoans should be proud of.”

Little will now also face an unusual opponent in November's general election: antigovernment militant Ammon Bundy.

Bundy first came to prominence when he led the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016 in protest against the feds control over land Bundy and his followers believed should be privately held. He is also the son of cattle rancher Cliven Bundy, who led an armed standoff with law enforcement in 2014 over grazing fees.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.

Loading
Loading...